Where to flock to in Malaysia for birdwatching?

Two egrets waiting to snatch small fish at Sungai Selangor where this is common sight for tourists to see here during the eagle feeding activity.-- M. Azhar Arif/The Star

Malaysia is a birdwatcher’s paradise. As one of the top 15 mega-biodiversity countries in the world, Malaysia is home to over 780 species of birds and hosts over 100 migratory bird species.

Here are some of the popular places in the country.

> Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in Perak is a refuge for migratory water birds. Approximately two-thirds of Kuala Gula’s water birds are migratory species, including shorebirds such as Sandpipers, Godwits and Plovers, as well as other water birds like egrets and herons. Flying in from their northern breeding grounds as early as August, more than 200,000 migratory birds stop at Kuala Gula before continuing further south.

Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in Perak has more than 350 species of birds.Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in Perak has more than 350 species of birds.Some will stay to wait out the winter period in the north, before flying off again. A few common species in the sanctuary include the Great Egret, Little Egret, Red-necked Stints, White-winged Terns, White-bellied Sea Eagles, and Collared Kingfishers. Kuala Gula is also home to the largest-known breeding colony of Black-Crowned Night Herons in Malaysia.

> Taman Negara National Park has over 350 bird species, and spans across three states – Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. It is one of the 55 identified Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the country. The Bat Hawks, Mountain Peacock Pheasants, Red-legged Crakes, Large Green Pigeons, Short-toed Coucals and Barn Owls are among the different types of bird that you can find when trailing across the forest.

> The Kuala Selangor Nature Park in Selangor is primarily a mangrove forest. Birdwatchers find it a good place to observe the characteristics of wetland birds since the park is home to over 170 species of birds, both native and migratory wading birds including the Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Whistler, Green Imperial Pigeons, Black-bellied Malkohas, Spotted Wood Owls and Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker species.

The Lesser Adjutant and the Milky Stork are rare bird species that have been observed here. The best time to visit the place is during the migration season from October to March.

> The Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in Perak is the only IBA where all 10 species of hornbills can be sighted, including the globally threatened Plain-Pouched Hornbill. The forest complex comprises the Royal Belum State Park, Temenggor and Grik Forest reserves. The fruiting season between July and November is when hundreds of hornbills can be spotted around the Temenggor Lake in the mornings and evenings. This is the only known area where thousands of hornbills have been seen at any one time or season – truly a breathtaking sight for any wildlife enthusiast. Over 304 bird species have been discovered here including threatened birds such as Great Argus, Wallace’s Hawk Eagle, Large Green Pigeon, Malaysian Peacock Pheasant, Shorttoed Coucal, and Straw-Headed Bulbul. Between September and November, the very rare Amur Falcon during the raptor migration period, can be sighted.

> Recognised as a Unesco Global Geopark, Langkawi Island in Kedah has over 220 bird species of birds that make the island their home. Some notable birding areas include the Gunung Machinchang Forest Reserve for rainforest and mangrove birds and Pantai Chenang for wetlands and shore birds. During winter in October to April, many migratory birds from China, Siberia and Manchuria make the Langkawi islands their home including the Grey-faced Buzzard, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Black-capped Kingfisher and the Ashy Drongo.

> As the Land of the Hornbills, Sarawak offers superb birdwatching opportunities. A great portion of the island of Borneo’s 650 bird species have been recorded in this state, hence it is no surprise that Sarawak has the most number of IBAs in Malaysia.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, Gunung Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s most famous park that is uniquely diverse and is a shelter to a wealth of tropical wildlife. Gunung Mulu has a striking list of 262 species including all eight Bornean hornbill species and more than half of the island’s endemic species such as Fruithunter, Hose’s Broadbill and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter.

> A birdwatcher’s journey in Borneo is not complete without a visit to the Danum Valley Conservation Area. Located in Sabah, it is arguably one of the state’s most important conservation biospheres which is primarily lowland rainforest.

The Danum Valley Field Centre was set up in 1986 for scientific research and education purposes and is now one of the IBAs in Malaysia as more than 275 species of birds have been found here including the Black throated Bornean Wren Babbler, Bornean Blue Flycatcher, Blue-headed Pitta, Blue-banded Pitta, Bornean Ground Cuckoo.

To facilitate birdwatchers, a 300m-long canopy walkway hanging 26m above the ground is available.

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